Indian shares end unchanged; tech, pharma stocks gain

A bird flies past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

BENGALURU, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Indian shares closed flat on Thursday, after moving in a narrow range through the day, with technology and pharma stocks posting gains amid some cautious trading due to the country reporting its highest jump in daily COVID-19 cases in a month.

The NSE Nifty 50 index (.NSEI) and the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex (.BSESN) ended almost flat at 17,203.95 and 57,794.32, respectively.

"The strong growth dynamic in the Indian IT sector and the safe-haven status that pharma enjoys will ensure that money gravitates towards these sectors till there is clarity on Omicron fears," said Ajay Bodke, an independent market analyst.

The Nifty IT index (.NIFTYIT) gained 1% and the pharma index (.NIPHARM) added 0.44%.

The IT index has gained for a fifth straight week and is up over 59%, so far this year.

Indian equities have retreated more than 7% from a record high hit in October, on worries over high valuations and the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant globally.

"While we remain constructive on Indian equities for calendar year 2022 with structurally high earnings growth, stretched valuations and potential negative catalysts could lead to tactical market corrections (in the) near term," Amish Shah, head of research, BofA Securities India said in a note.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 infections in the country jumped by 13,154 infections.

"The rate of hospitalisations from Omicron is very low. But, if the sheer numbers were to overwhelm the hospital infrastructure, then one could see rollout of lockouts and crimping of economic activity," Bodke said.

RBL Bank (RATB.NS) fell 9.4% after a report that a 3 billion rupees write off was the key reason for Indian banking regulator's intervention in the private lender.

The bank said over the weekend its managing director and chief executive officer went on medical leave and the Reserve Bank of India had appointed an executive to the lender's board. read more

Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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